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401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

Rural hospitals provide essential services

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Dear Editor:

I am a director on the board of the Delta County Memorial Hospital and I am, again, attempting to persuade our senators and representatives to take action protecting the ongoing viability of rural hospitals.

Please don't assume that people in need of medical services in Delta County, Montrose County, Gunnison County or even in Mesa County have the financial ability and/or the physical ability to travel many miles, like to Denver or even Grand Junction, for medical services. The rural hospitals in Colorado provide an essential service to those living, recreating or merely passing through the areas served by such hospitals. Rural hospitals also provide specialized services, provided specialists are willing and interested in practicing in rural areas. You can be sure that those doctors are not going to be interested if the state is not willing to support the rural hospitals, financially, so that the hospitals can afford the necessary specialized equipment and facilities needed by those doctors. Rural hospitals in Colorado are also often the major employer within the county.

Delta County Memorial Hospital, like all other rural hospitals, serves patients much different than those of the metro area. Approximately 75 percent of the clientele of Delta County Memorial Hospital are Medicaid or Medicare patients and the hospital receives payment of only about 30 percent of the charges for the services it provides to such patients. The hospital provider fee is a source of payment to rural hospitals that increases Medicaid income and helps to overcome the financial burden of providing medical services to Medicaid patients.

My information is that TABOR is causing the Legislature to have to reduce the current Long Bill, SB17-254, by around $500 million and that the hospital provider fee is being cut by $264 million, over half the total budget reduction. It is unconscionable to place such a heavy cut on that one fund, a fund that assists rural hospitals in their provision of medical services to Medicaid patients, maintaining a reasonable level of medical services outside the metro area.

Jim Briscoe

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